A plan is just a plan until you make it happen
In a country where it sometimes seems that we live to disagree, there is almost universal agreement that the National Development Plan is a good thing.
By Mike Muller – contributing writer
All parties in Parliament have endorsed the National Development Plan, as has organised business and many trade unions. Although Cosatu remains unhappy, it shares the NDP’s proposals to get business to invest more to create jobs, boost public spending on infrastructure and tackle corruption.
One reason for the wide support is that it is difficult to argue against the plan’s key objectives: to end poverty and reduce inequality, making South Africa a better and fairer place for all. Another reason for the support is that the NDP pulls no punches. It says that unless we fix the many broken bits of government, we won’t succeed.
One broken bit is the education system which currently fails to give most South African children the start they need in life. Another challenge, which occupies a whole chapter, is the fight against corruption. Unless that is won, government won’t work and most people in the country will stay poor. And government itself must be professionally staffed and run if it is to be effective.
Wide acceptance is not enough to ensure that the NDP will make a practical difference. One immediate problem is that not many of the people who endorse it have actually read its detail. As a result, they don’t know what it means for them. If this is not fixed, a key strategy of the plan – which is to get all citizens actively involved in its implementation – won’t work. The remedy doesn’t lie with the National Planning Commission, but with government and society as a whole. People need to know what is in the NDP and what it means for them. That applies to plumbing as well.
I would suggest that there are three issues of particular relevance to the industry. First is the emphasis on training and getting young people into work. Just helping young people onto the first step of the ladder of a working life makes a tremendous contribution. Anyone who runs a business can contribute by taking on a youngster as an intern or apprentice, particularly if they are helped by youth wage subsidies or similar schemes in which government shares the initial cost of taking on young trainees.
Next, plumbing must prepare for the work that is going to be generated by the capital investment proposed in the plan, both the large scale projects, but also the smaller scale investment, including more housing developments. Finally, the manufacturing industries must come to the party, investing in new products and production. For this to happen, the flood of cheap sub-standard imports must be checked. That is largely government’s job.
A weakening rand will also assist, but enforcement of standards on imported goods and on projects will be critical.
I hope the message is clear. The National Development Plan is everybody’s business. Unless every citizen, plumbers included, help to make it work, it will remain just another report on peoples’ bookshelves. But with your active contributions, it could be the foundation of a better country.